Six Techies Win Student Appreciation Awards

SOCORRO, N.M. May 7, 2015 – New Mexico Tech honored six individuals and one club with the 2015 Student Appreciation Awards in late April at a special banquet at the Bodega Burger Co.

The student honorees were Kayla Engstrom, Ryder Fox, Jasmine Hoo, Ron Hruban, Caleb Jaquish, and Yitian “Tina” Li. The club winner was the Physics Club .

Kayla Engstrom

Kayla Engstrom is biology major with minors in psychology and math, who is headed to medical school. She was nominated by Drea Killingsworth and Lisa Majkowski for her work with the Office of Student Learning, volunteerism and academic excellence.

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Kayla Engstrom accepts her award from nominators Drea Killingsworth (left) and Lisa Majkowski.


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Ryder Fox accepts the Student Appreciation Award. Pictured (from left) are Dr. Snezna Rogelj, Lisa Majkowski, Fox, Emily Seidel and Drea Killingsworth.


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Jasmine Hoo accepts her award from Virginia Chang. 


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Award winner Ron Hruban with his professor Dr. Kevin Wedeward.



Caleb Jaquish with his nominators (from left) Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming, Lillian Armijo and Lala Garcia.


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Eight members of the Physics Club, along with Dr. Paul Arendt (far left). 



Engstrom has served a tutor for upper-level biology, chemistry, math and engineering, as well as worked as a T.A. for Calculus 1 and II.

Killingsworth wrote that “She is an advocate for students, lending an ear to problems, and doing her best to get students the help they need.”

Majkowski wrote that “Kayla is a kind person who treats all of the students that she tutors with respect. They seek her out because they trust her.”

Engstrom also volunteers at the Prebsyterian Rust Medical Center emergency department and progressive care unit. She has organized blood drives on campus. She also studied abroad in Spain.

Ryder Fox

Ryder Fox was nominated for this award by four faculty and staff members – Emily Seidel, Lynn Arthur, Lisa Majkowski and Dr. Snezna Rogelj. The nominations focused on Fox’s efforts as the president of QuASAR, Queer Association of Socorro Area Residents and organizing the Trans 101 workshops in March 2015.

Majkowski wrote “Ryder Fox was the driving force behind the recent Trans 101 workshops. … These workshops were not only informative; they were highly successful – with attendance of over 100 students, staff and faculty. … I applaud Ryder for bringing this diversity training to New Mexico Tech, for making us more aware of how we can be respectful of our fellow human beings, and for showing us how we can contribute to providing a safe campus environment for all.”

Fox volunteers through Stronger U Fitness to work with individuals with physical limitations and has also organized members of QuASAR to volunteer their time to tutor youths at the Boys and Girls Ranch.

Rogelj’s nomination mentioned Fox’s efforts to create and submit proposals to Tech administration to make the single-occupancy restrooms on campus non-gendered.

Jasmine Hoo

Chemistry professor Dr. Michael Heagy nominated Jasmine Hoo for her volunteer work on campus and in the community and academic excellence.

Hoo has organized student efforts to support Puerto Seguro, the local homeless day shelter. She lead the efforts to sell green chile cheeseburgers at SocorroFest and a Rally Puerto Seguro! fundraiser.

“Jasmine never seems to say ‘no’ or ignores a request to raise funding for charities,” Heagy wrote. “She’s always there to help when I’ve requested volunteers … She simply seems to be that kind of person. Based on her attitude and generosity, I’m nominating Jasmine for this prestigious award.”

Ron Hruban

Graduating senior Ron Hruban earned the Student Appreciation Award for his developing a mentoring program in the Electrical Engineering Department.

Dr. Kevin Wedeward praised Hruban’s efforts – along with several classmates – to develop and pilot a program to welcome new students into the department. The mentoring program also established ongoing contact points to help create a sense of belonging for new students. The initial event in 2013 saw more than 30 underclassmen participate, with subsequent events continuing to be well-received by students.

Hruban also volunteers to lead tours of campus to visitors on Exploration Day, Research@Tech Day and other similar events. Wedeward said Hruban is a sought-after grader, teaching assistant and tutor for the most challenging classes in electrical engineering.

“He is always willing to help and is an outstanding representative of the department and the institute,” Wedeward said.

Hruban was honored as the first runner-up as Engineering Student of the Year at Tech earlier this year. He is also the president of the rock-climbing club and volunteers at Science Olympiad and the Salvation Army.

Caleb Jaquish

Caleb Jaquish earned the Student Appreciation Award for his leadership skills with the Tech Chess Club, his friendly nature and volunteer work.

Vice President Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming, Lala Garcia  and Lillian Armijo, director of Community Education nominated Jaquish

He has taught Chess I and Chess II through the Community Education Department since January 2013. He has also served as the president of the Chess Club.

“He is a conscientious instructor and has had nothing but praise on his evaluations semester to semester,” Armijo wrote. “Mr. Jaquish is a well-liked student on campus and is willing to help his fellow Techies in all their endeavors.”

Garcia and Jaramillo-Fleming, in a joint nomination, wrote that, “Caleb is amazing. He has a big heart and a humble soul … every time I meet with him, I feel his passion for whatever he is talking about. … Caleb is sure to go on and do great things. In his short time here at NMT, he has touched many people on campus and has been an asset to NMT and his fellow students.”

Through the Chess Club, Jaquish has organized annual statewide Chess Tournaments and started a lecture series this fall hosted by the club.

He has also served as a maintenance worker and peer counselor at the Southwest Bible Camp.

Yitian “Tina” Li

Three faculty members nominated Tina Li for this award: Drs. Bruce Harrison, Ingar Walder and Jolante van Wijk. They nominated Li because of how she has served to tutor and mentor her fellow students from Yangtze University in China.

Li came to Socorro several years ago and is one of only two students from Yangtze to complete a bachelor’s in geology from the Earth and Environmental Science Department. She is now a master’s student and is a role model, recruiter, and much more to her colleagues.

Harrison wrote that Li struggled during her first three semesters at Tech, adjusting to the pace of lectures and learning colloquial English.

“She has made herself available to help a new group of Yangtze students,” Harrison wrote. “She has taken most of the classes these students are taking and she is living in the same dorm. Consequently she is in great demand from these students who are experiencing the same issues Tina faced. Her help is not restricted to E&ES students; many petroleum engineering students also take E&ES classes and Tina is helping them as well. It would be difficult to exaggerate the contribution tina has made to the success of Yangtze students here at NM Tech. The E&ES Yangtze students are performing significantly better than Tina did when she first arrived and this is in large part due to her help.”

Walder wrote that “I have five of the latest arrived Chinese students in one of my classes and they are telling me how Tina is helping them to understand the geological subjects in English. … Without Tina’s help, many of the new Yangtze students would have failed.”

The Physics Club

Physics faculty members Drs. Paul Arendt, Michelle Creach-Eakman and Ken Minschwaner nominated the Physics Club for the Student Appreciation Award for their breadth and scope of their activities on campus.

The nominators praised the club for their outreach activities and recruiting efforts in Socorro and statewide. The club maintains an array of physics demonstrations, which they have taken to local schools and displayed on campus for visiting school groups.

Five club members volunteered as co-supervisors of the meteorology competition at the N.M. Science Olympiad.

The nominators wrote, “We note that most (or all) of these activities were performed on the club members’ own initiative. At the department level, the club serves as an important conduit for communication and for logistics at department events. We believe that their efforts are more than worthy of the Student Appreciation Award.”

In presenting the award, Arendt said that the club has so many active leaders that they had trouble deciding who should accept the award. Ultimately, eight club members attended the banquet.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech